Sunday, June 23, 2013

No bridge, but bands and a Jewel

Last year, Mrs Notthat told me that I was registered for the first Half of the San Francisco Marathon. I'm not a fan of crowds or road races, but who doesn't want a chance to run on the Golden Gate Bridge, at least once. So I grudgingly did it.

The SF Marathon people know their marketing, and showed off a nice spinner medal that was yours if you ran the second Half course the following year. The thing is, it seemed like nobody wants to run the second Half - there's no bridge.

But Mrs Notthat wanted the bonus spinner medal, so we signed up for that second Half race.

One thing that makes the two SF Half races a bit challenging are the logistics - they are point-to-point races, which means that you don't finish where you started (which is probably where you left your car). You can buy a seat on the official race shuttle busses, but that means dealing with lines and, on the second Half, giving up the biggest advantage of the second Half - its relatively late start. (The Full and first Half waves start at 5:30 AM - the second Half waves start at the much more civilized 8:15 AM.)

Which is why Needs Cool Name, husband of Weird Haired Mom, is such a stud (for the second year in a row). He dropped us off near our start and then met us at the finish. Having an NCN takes a LOT of the stress and hassle out of this process.

To get to our start area, we had to cross the Full Marathon course. There were quite a few runners going by - these were the faster runners that were a bit over half done with their race. I wasn't sure we would see anyone we knew, but then, there was Oel (not his real name) flying by.

And then a stunner - The Endorphin Dude came by. This was his 100th Marathon and he was determined to have a great showing. I was amazed and thrilled for him (and a bit bummed since this meant that I would not see him again out on the course).

We had emails leading up to the race talking about the increased security and that they were strictly enforcing the wave assignments. It was a nice surprise to see that the starting area for the second Half was very mellow and casual. The waves were treated as suggestions and the many portable heaters scattered around were very popular. The runners looked well rested (as opposed to those that had to start at 5:30) and relaxed. It was awesome.

A funny thing about this picture - everyone except the speedy Retep (not his real name) finished within two minutes of each other.

And here we are starting. We basically just merged in with the Full runners, who had mixed emotions seeing all these fresh runners join them on the course.

A cool thing about the second Half is that it has a number of bands scattered along the course. This group I particularly liked. (Note that my camera refused to focus the first bit of the race. As a spoiler alert, this is the same camera that I ended up drowning in the San Lorenzo river a week after this race.)

The second Half course spends a lot of time wandering around Golden Gate Park, which I loved. At about mile 6 we headed down famed Haight Street, whose highlight was K-Bacon cheering loudly as we headed into the Mission.

The Mission part of the course is a bit interesting due how they keep diverting runners down different streets in an effort to allow some traffic to cross the area. Three times the diversion happened just ahead of me, the result being that a small group of us were suddenly charging down an empty street on our own - kind of cool and a bit creepy at the same time.

It was somewhere around mile 8 or 9 that I had a huge surprise - I could see Mrs Notthat ahead of me. (She's one of the dots up there ahead of me.) This was the longest distance she had been able to run for a long time - since the Quicksilver 25K - and she was tiring a bit earlier than normal. Still, I had not expected to see her until the finish, as normal.

And then it happened - I passed her. She was doing fine, but was very tired. And still smiling.

She snatched the (now working again) camera away to take this picture of me being fierce.

Yes, that woman is walking against the runners, looking for her runner. Fortunately,  the  runners were pretty tired by now and the chance of her being trampled were minimal.
Finally we were on the Embarcadero (I think) and on the home stretch. Which meant one thing to me:

The Jewel was not far away. The first Half has that bridge, but the second Half has AT&T Park. I really liked this bit.

Running along McCovey Cove - that's the water that home run balls end up in sometimes.

And finally, the finish line. Mrs Notthat and I ran up this chute hand-in-hand - a first for us and a huge thrill for me.

It's bad form to do this, but here is a screenshot of a proof proving that we were together, hand in hand. And naturally, I had my camera out, taking that picture just before this one. I may have to buy this one.

The finish area was filled with mayhem (and MANY very happy runners that were done).

While we were waiting for WHM to make her way down to the Bonus Medal Tent, I headed back to find a place to fill my water bottle, where I met this guy, Noah. (I hate that I don't know his last name.) He was fascinating to talk to - he has run 80 Marathons starting back in the 60s, including many Boston, New York, and others. I was a bit dubious, but as he kept talking, I realized he wasn't making this stuff up, and it was amazing. (A freak bicycle accident about ten years ago ended his running.)

I love this picture - pure joy at being done and having collected our bonus spinner medals (which, I have to admit, were pretty cool).

The first Half Marathon course has a bridge. But the second Half to me was much more fun - much less stress, much more sleep, and a course that was a lot more fun than expected.

This year's race had to be moved from it's normal early August start to an early June start due to a bunch of rich guys wanting to race their boats in the Bay this summer. The day that was picked was Father's Day. This change of dates led to a significant drop in the number of runners at this race. (Which did little to improve my chances at winning.)  

So here's the next issue - the SF Marathon Marketing Machine isn't done with us. If you run the two Half Marathons and then run the Full Marathon, you get a bonus hoody. Mrs Notthat knows this, and is considering it. I've already got a few hoodies, so I'm good, and consider myself done with this particular road race.

Unless Mrs Notthat does a stealth registration again. Surely not, right?

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

The trail was quaking (at least a small portion of it)

Brazen's Trailquake  race is one of my favorites, although it's really tough. So I was a bit torn when it fell on the same weekend as the San Francisco Marathon this year.

Last year, I ran the Brazen Bad Bass Half the day before the SF Marathon (I ran the first Half that year) and really felt it - I don't do well on road races under perfect conditions, and even worse when already a bit tired.

So Mrs Notthat and I were adults and chose to run the 5K at Trailquake.

I thought it would be fun to head up the trail a bit to get pictures of the Half Marathon runners trudging up that first hill, just like I always do. It turns out many runners do not trudge up the hills. Who knew?

Once the 5K headed out though, I took up my spot near the back and there was much trudging going on. This course is tough, even for the short distances; lots of climbing on narrow single-track trails.

This girl was the overall winner of the 5K - so cool!
Since the 5K course is largely an out-and-back, we got to see the lead runners heading at us, down the hill, going REALLY fast.

Add Mrs Notthat to the list of lead runners - she was flying down this hill (which often required quick footwork dodging the other runners while watching for roots and rocks).

Eventually I made it up to the 5K turnaround, which meant I too could begin "flying" back down the hill.

On the way back down, there was a short bit of trail that was different than the trail on the way up. The fun thing was that the trail was blocked by a very impressive downed tree. Rather than making us retrace our steps, an emergency detour trail was created that went around the tree's base.

Photo by Brazen volunteer Nodnarb (not his real name, but wouldn't that be awesome!).
Mrs Notthat, just beyond that tree, naturally looks like a real trail runner.

Photo also by Brazen volunteer Nodnarb.
Nodnarb, who took this picture, must be at least part magician since he also managed to make me look like a proper trail runner.

And before I knew it, I was at the finish line. I forget how fast 5K races are over, but this one was tough enough that I was seriously tired.

I accidentally wandered by Ymmat (not her real name) and Chewbaca (her real name, who looks like she is daring me to try to claim a medal) who were the Age Group Awards Administration Department. She is smiling because she thinks I'm going to ask if I won, which is always good for a laugh. Then two things happened:

  1. Mrs Notthat won first place in her age group. (And not nearly by default.)
  2. I won first place in my age group. (And, wildly, not by default, but barely!)

So I took Mrs Notthat's medal over to her where she was being worked over by her ART doctor, who has been working with Mrs to recover from her latest round of injuries.

That's a LOT of hardware.

And that's about it. We managed to survive this race unscathed and should be able to complete the SF Marathon's second Half race on Sunday. (Spoiler alert - no age group medals were won by us at that race.)

Trailquake is a blast, but I really think the Half distance is the best. All the climbing and trails plus you manage to not get caught up in the madness of the shorter distances all trying to navigate the narrow trails.

But it's really nice to be sitting at the finish line eating It's-It bars after less than 45 minutes of effort.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Falls were Berry Berry good to me

Coastal Trail Runs scheduled their Big Basin 50 for a Sunday. This race follows the famous (and stunningly fun) Skyline to the Sea trail from Saratoga Gap to the coast. The heart of the race is in Big Basin State Park, which has many amazing trails.

So, they thought, what the heck; let's put on a shorter race Saturday and show off some more of the Big Basin trails.

And that's (more or less) how the Berry Creek Falls 10K, 15K, and 25K races were born. The course was set up as two very different loops:

  • A 15K loop with 2180' of climbing that was almost completely in the woods and followed Berry Creek, which it turned out, falls. A lot.

  • A 10K loop with 1155' of climbing that is the 5 mile loop the 50K runners follow on Sunday, with some bonus trails thrown in to get it to a bit over 6 miles. This loop had a lot more sun exposure than the 15K loop. 

25K runners did the 15K loop then headed back out to do the 10K loop.

I chose to do the 15K loop mostly because I wanted to see the falls. Mrs Notthat did the 10K because she promised her doctor she would take it (relatively) easy.

Baby Coastal would be much happier if I ran the 10K. As usual, he is dubious I will finish any time soon.
Saturday promised to have near-record breaking heat. The 15K course did not have an aid station, although there would be a ranger up on top that would have water for those who had run out. Mr Coastal encouraged everyone to carry a lot more water than they normally would, and several runners grabbed a bonus water bottle for just in case.

The fun thing about the 15K loop was that it was mostly in the trees, which kept it nicely cool. We started by following a creek along the Skyline to the Sea trail up to a view point where you could see Berry Creek Falls.

Berry Creek Falls were pretty, but the dry winter has left them much less aggressive than normal.
At that point we turned up Berry Creek trail where we were treated to several more waterfalls.

The second set of falls.
When a trail is muddy and needs cables for you to hang on to while ascending, you know it's a great trail.

I loved this part of the course, even though it involved a lot of climbing and stopping to take pictures.

The ranger passing out water to any that needed it. I have no idea why that hiker is mooning me.
Eventually we turned onto Sunset trail which left the waterfall-infested creek and presented us with a short stretch of sun-drenched trail, which served as a great reminder of how hot it was. Thankfully we were back into the trees fairly quickly.

As I was getting near the finish, there was a short bit of trail shared by the 10K loop. This 25K runner is heading out to do the 10K loop. Part of me wished I was going to do that 10K loop as well, but a larger, more sensible part of me was thrilled I had opted for being happy with just the 15K distance.

Just before the finish line, there was rookie paparazzi Mrs Notthat, Weird Haired Mom (who you can see was very concerned for my hydration), and Secnarf (not her real name) who was wondering what she had gotten herself into, all at the 25K aid station.

Picture by WHM. Smile by Mrs Notthat.
Mrs Notthat had finished her 10K much earlier, wearing her perfect "A" bib (you're welcome music majors!).

I'm stunned that I'm grabbing air this close to the end of a race. I should have done the 25K. Picture by WHM, or maybe Mrs Notthat. Actually, I think Secnarf might have grabbed the camera and taken this - I wasn't thinking very clearly. Maybe 15K was the perfect distance after all.
I told you it was hot there. Although I think Selym (not his real name) may have overheated his brain working out his splits.

Once I cooled off a bit, we loaded up the trunk and back seat with the supplies for the aid station I would be at the following morning for the Big Basin 50 race. Mrs Notthat and I could have lived off this stuff for several months.

I REALLY liked this race. The trails are amazing - Big Basin State Park is home to a ton of redwood trees, great trails, and of course, the waterfalls. There is a bit of a drive to get here - be sure to allow plenty of time since you will likely end up behind someone that is going very slowly.

The worst thing about this race is that it is followed by the equally fun Big Basin 50, and I suspect many runners would love to do both races. But for those of us that aren't quite up to the 50K or Marathon distance, Berry Creek Falls is a great way to experience this area.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

PPS: The Blog apologizes for the title of this thing. It couldn't be helped.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

It was like I had Nitro for breakfast

The Brazen Nitro trail race is interesting. You have almost all the major trail groups involved - along the water, through the woods, single-track, fire roads, pavement - the only notably missing group is the one with long, hard climbs. There are hills, but they are minor and a lot of proper runners probably never even notice them.

It's also a 10K course - putting on a Half Marathon here requires the runners to do two laps, plus a small loop at the beginning to get the mileage right. In the past, it has been hard, as a Half runner, to finish your first lap and have to run right by the finish line and all the runners that are done and are busy wolfing down It's-It ice cream bars while you head out for your second lap.

They fixed that this year by adding a Half bypass. And that Half bypass was partially responsible for me accomplishing two of my goals.

Goal number one was to not let Mrs Notthat pass me. I ran the Half while she (and her rapidly recovering legs) ran the 10K. I got a 15 minute head start. But I also had a 0.7 mile loop to do that she didn't have to do. So I really ended up with about a 7 minute head start.

Goal number two was to not get lapped by the Half winner.

The Half bypass meant I was able to switch off the trail they were on about a quarter mile early - they were rapidly gaining on me and it's possible that quarter mile saved me.

Another thing that makes this race interesting is that it serves as the anniversary of Brazen's first race, which they put on here back in 1907 (or so it seems if you look at the RD). So there is a tendency to do something special for this race. This year, a bunch of us surprised them by showing up with fake beards.

Photo by Not A Canadian. 
Mrs Notthat won the Mr Brazen look-alike contest. (She's the one on the left.) The funny thing is that Mr Brazen always has on a flannel shirt, visor, and sunglasses. But not today. (He did rock the walking boot, which was a detail that scored heavily in Mrs Notthat's favor.)

I'm on the left. That's Ydnar (not his real name) and his son (his real son) rocking the  family beards. Photo by Not A Canadian.
A beard-infested group shot by I'm Not Sure.
Eventually, the beards were put away (standing around with a fake beard was challenging - running with one was pretty much out of the question) and the race started.

I love the wooded bits of the trail…

… but I also love the bits of trail that provide these great views of San Pablo Bay.

My arch-nemisis is getting ready to try to tackle me.
Half runners went past this aid station four times. Yram (not her real name) failed to trip me each time.

Getting passed by a MUCH fitter 10K runner at that first aid station. Photo by a Brazen Volunteer.
Yes. This is my "I'm really pushing it" face. Heavy sigh.

Mrs Notthat going past that aid station a short time after I went through it. Photo by a Brazen Volunteer.

This aid station we also went by four times, but sort of unofficially two of those times. This is also only about 1.5 miles from the finish of the first lap. And so far, no Mrs Notthat or Half Winner sightings. My goals, which I will admit I thought were a bit unrealistic, were suddenly looking possible. (I had been pushing harder than normal, even running the hills, in the hopes of achieving my goals. But still - I had serious doubts I would pull this off.)

I took a quick look behind me and I couldn't see her. So I took off to do the half mile loop that would bring me back to this aid station where I could get an update.

When I got back there, Mrs Notthat was just arriving. That meant I had a half mile lead on her with about a mile to go. I yelled at the aid station volunteers to slow her down - "ask her about her nails" - but she blew through there with a determined look and a spring in her step.

It was on.

But my lead was too great, and I made it to the bypass before she (or the Half winner) could catch me. Two goals done!

The second lap was a LOT slower than the first one. I had been pushing hard and it caught up to me. So I just enjoyed the rest of the race, taking in the views and cruising along.

Mrs Notthat was busy making weird faces with Oel (not his real name) and missed my finish.

And then she showed me her prize for winning the "look like Mr Brazen" contest - a beard beer cozy!

OK - not all of us put our fake beards away. This is how bizarre new fashion trends get started Ms. Eilsel (not her real name or real, ummm, hair extensions).

It's a little hard to explain this photo. I'm not even going to try.

For this one, the photo is easy to explain - it's Not a Canadian, the instigator of the beard festivities, holding up a sign she made with the idea of flashing it any time I pointed a camera at her. You can see how effective it is.

And that's about it. The race was a blast (especially the first lap!). Mrs Notthat ended up getting an impressive age group award in a competitive field.

And we've now got two fake beards to play with.

That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.